Supreme Court Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar on Tuesday said every citizen should be proud of his or her religious and ethnic identify while being equally proud of their Indian identity.
"Everyone should be proud of his religion and ethnicity and this is what the Constitution is all about, " the Chief Justice said, pointing out that he was "proud to be a Sikh by birth and religion".
Khehar said this while speaking at an Independence Day function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) here.
He touched on various issues including widespread perception that the children of judges enjoyed edge over others in judicial appointments.
Describing as unfounded the media reports which said that his son has found place in the list of Punjab government lawyers, he said that "What (at times) appears to be the blatant misuse of authority, may not be so. "
Khehar said this referring to SCBA president R. S. Suri who had said that the panels of government lawyers are full of sons and kins of judges and they had edge over others in judicial appointments.
Telling Suri, "Mr. President don't say that", Khehar said that there were "wise children of judges, Dalits, Brahmins and belonging to other communities and all are together for achieving what they want".
Speaking on the occasion, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said "India is secular not because of its secular Constitution but because of its secular heritage", while pointing out that "every faith needs to be protected".
Asking the audience to remember the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle who laid down their lives for the country's Independence, Prasad said there was "shortcoming and weakness" but he could see a new India emerging with self - confidence.
However, the Chief Justice said it is not only those who laid their lives who should be remembered but even others who had contributed to the cause of country's freedom and suffered at the hands of British colonialists.
On judicial appointment, Prasad said that as of now they have appointed 75 judges to various high courts in 2017 and hoped that in the remaining months they would appoint more.
He said in 2016 they had cleared 126 names for appointment to high courts.
Complimenting all the three organs of state for the "dramatic achievements since independence", Attorney General K. K. Venugopal said it was incumbent on the three wings to extricate the country out of endemic poverty.
Describing poverty as the greatest challenge to human rights, Venugopal said: "If poverty is endemic then what is the purpose of human rights.
Does right to free speech, free movement within the country have any meaning. "
Quoting the incumbent Pope Francis, he said: "Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities. "
He also quoted late South African President Nelson Mandela who had said, "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity.
It is an act of justice.
It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.
While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. "
Flagging the issue of children of judges enjoying edge over others for appointment to high court benches, SCBA President Suri said that more and more judges of high courts should be appointed from the Supreme court Bar as they have good exposure and would elevate the standards of high courts.
In his welcome address, SCBA Vice President Ajit Kumar Sinha called for "refining and rebuilding the national character".